The Evolution Of Television Through The Ages And Where It Stands Now

Some inventions are a flash in the dark. They come and go while others are the ones which change human life and history. Britain, in early 1900′s saw the combined effort of a lot of genii over several decades that ended up using the cathode rays to be used in a device called ‘Television’. Since the first television broadcast, there has been a whole industry devised around the device and with time it grows. Mass media, communications, entertainment, education, awareness, tutorials, shopping and advertisements are just some of the uses that it found. Till the invention of the internet and aptly till the invention of the sharing services that complement that of the televisions, there was no rival.


Up till recently, there had been speculations that the technology industry is heading towards a breakdown of the television paradigm and towards more on demand and pay per view based services on the internet. We take a look at the history of the television and how it changed the course of businesses.

  1.  The early years: BBC dominated the scene by and large but even before it came into picture (no pun intended), television was thought of as an extension of, and owes its existence to the invention of the screen through cathode ray tube experiments in the late 1800s. That was the electromechanical television, which was succeeded by the electronic television, the assembly of picture tubes and analog circuitry which made the picture clearer and took the display beyond just silhouettes.
  2.  The Medieval Ages: Satellite televisions were invented somewhere in the 70′s and long range broadcasts started. Screen sizes increased and cathode ray tubes still were in fashion. Companies like Texla ruled the market. In the late 1980′s and early 1990′s, innovations ensued and the LCD was introduced and since then, the television industry has exponentially grown in all its aspects – both manufacturing and broadcast.
  3.  The Modern ages: Internet took over a lot of technology buzz and was the centre of attention. A lot of software innovation stepped in that also affected how the technology evangelists looked at the entertainment device. While the firmware fixes did a lot for the auxiliary devices that were driven by the internet, the real hardware innovations remained with companies like Samsung and Sony. YouTube was launched and people had a taste of streaming media and that was when the bubble actually burst. Innovators thought about integrating the two sides of the coin – the software and hardware.

The Hardware: The flat screen television incorporated the LCD technology which is still widely in use. Gradual technology shift has now introduced LED display technology not so long back and it has made the displays thinner and incorporated more pixels and colors in a smaller space. This allowed the displays on the handheld devices to grow in appeal and aesthetic value. TVs today feature the 3D technology which was limited to theaters. Samsung, Sony, LG and many others offer a distinct 3D experience with access to internet and social media which brought the whole TV paradigm to “connected TVs”. Steve Jobs once frowned upon the ‘setup’ of Television experience. He aimed to make the experience simpler and uncluttered. Different companies are doing their bit to change that but Apple is still to announce a formal entry into the segment except the Apple TV which is a device to consolidate content more than deliver an all round experience including display.

Google stepped into the segment as well. Google also launched a platform co developed by Intel, Sony and Logitech. An integration of Android OS and Chrome browser, the first generation devices were put together by Sony and Logitech. As one can imagine the TV has apps and embedded applications that accentuate the experience.

The Software: The 21st century saw a lot of changes happening in technology. Social media and smart phones are the biggest of them all. The sheer penetration of these devices and exponential rise has taken away some of the charm that television used to hold, however the main problems that television viewership might face because of the phenomenon are listed as under

  • Streaming services might hamper the regular programming and convenience and ease would take a front with the viewers.
  • On demand programming and premium content providers are taking over the market, in both movies and series section. Intel, HP and many major PC manufacturers are entering the TV business in hopes of supporting the faltering PC markets.
  • The software platforms are also being embedded into the television technology and hardware so that viewers have the same large screen experience in their living rooms with capabilities of a connected device which could stream on demand content.
  • Smart phone TV viewership has increased. Reports show that more and more mobile TV users are coming up that use their handheld devices for TV viewing.

TV has seen so many technology shifts that there is uncertainty if it would remain the usual entertainment box it always was. Open source operating software Ubuntu also launched the co-operative TV platform which brings in collaborative innovation. Diversion from scheduled programming is inevitable, that does not mean that regular series and programs won’t be popular, it just means that on demand viewing would be more prevalent than the current trend.

Every other big organization is getting into the business. Intel is planning to launch its own internet TV. Collaboration with studios and production houses is the way to go for Intel. In Indian context, overseas online services that provide Hindi and regional language content are getting popular, so dissemination of content is also easy with the internet.  Twitter just bought Blue Fin labs, the social media TV analytics firm that is to help Twitter increase its TV presence.

Steve Jobs envisioned TV to be an uncluttered experience which encompasses all, on demand, regular scheduled programming, internet connectivity and user friendly interface. Some speculate that it is time for Apple to step in and change the game but the market is already very fierce. A 3D TV with and open source platform like Android featuring on demand content from streaming services and movies from Netflix and video content from YouTube and a console that lets you download games in real-time was a possibility unheard of 10 years ago. imagine where it will be 10 years from now.

Television image courtesy of Shutterstock

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